Wilmington lawyer weighs in on deportation case

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After a Wilmington man had his citizenship revoked for sexually abusing a child, a Wilmington immigration attorney is breaking down the process of denaturalization.

Prempeh Ernest Agyemang, 58, was admitted to the United States in 1989. He began molesting a child in 1999 or early 2000.

After the abuse began, Agyemang stated during his naturalization interview that he had never committed a crime or offense for which he was not arrested. He pleaded guilty to the abuse in 2003. 15 years later, he will be deported back to Ghana.

Wilmington immigration attorney Vanessa Gonzalez says immigrants can be denaturalized just for lying or misrepresenting themselves on their citizenship application, regardless of the severity of the crime, or how long they have been a citizen of the United States.

However, she says that is not the case with Agyemang.

“Priorities have always been to focus not only denying immigration benefits but revoking immigration benefits for folks that are criminally culpable for specific abhorrent crimes. So someone in that situation would usually always fall onto the radar regardless of fraud in their application, because it’s the criminal conviction that brings them to light,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez says in the past, denaturalization typically was not a priority for the U.S. government due to lack of resources. But as technology advances, and hard paper copies become digital files, the process has become much easier.

Gonzalez also says that denaturalization can be politically motivated. She cited a case in which a woman had been charged with shoplifting, but did not list it on her naturalization application. She said the crime would not have prevented her from becoming a citizen, but lying about it could have caused her to be deported.

“There was a Supreme Court case that happened last year that an applicant for naturalization had omitted a basic fact in her application, and the government sought to denaturalize her. And the Supreme Court determined that it was not material to her naturalization,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez also says what can be considered a misrepresentation is a gray area.

“If there’s a question that says have you ever been convicted of a crime, on a job application, here in North Carolina, if you were given deferred prosecution and you ended up doing community service but it was dismissed, that’s not a conviction. Under immigration law, this is a conviction,” said Gonzalez.

As far as Agyemang, he must surrender his certificate of naturalization, and will be deported back to Ghana.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office could not say how long that process will take.

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